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In this section of the manual:

Refer a patient

Updated 18 August 2009 

The Neuro-Oncology Site Group at BC Cancer is composed of members from the four BC Cancer cancer centres and associate physicians involved in patient care, research and teaching with respect to tumours of the CNS system. The group has provincial responsibilities and, as part of its mandate, will recommend management policies for neuro-oncologic diagnoses.

Patients with a pathologic (or occasionally imaging abnormalities highly suggestive of) diagnosis of a CNS tumour can be referred to BC Cancer for consultation, treatment or follow-up. Routine referrals are usually seen within 10 working days while emergencies with rapid neurologic deterioration are seen as soon as possible. In addition to the core medical services, access to supportive services such as nursing, patient counseling and speech therapy, as well as referral to community occupational therapy, physiotherapy and home care nursing are also available. Selected uncommon or difficult cases are presented at the multidisciplinary neuro-oncology case conference on Friday mornings. This conference is video-linked to all four cancer centres. Referring physicians are most welcome to attend.

All new pediatric referrals should be referred to BC Children's Hospital to neurosurgery or oncology or neuro-oncology.

Despite the intensive treatments for patients with CNS tumours, the survival in some tumour types is short. Some patients may be candidates for participation in clinical trials of the various treatment modalities involved. Patient and Family Counselling Services, at the Vancouver Island and Vancouver Centres, offer Brain Tumour Support Groups to provide social and psychological support for patients and their family members.

See reports required by the Admitting Department.

Driving restrictions may be indicated for brain tumour patients because of seizures or impairment of vision, mobility or cognition.

Driving is not permitted for 6 months after a generalized seizure; driving may be resumed after 6 seizure free months if the patient is compliant with an antiepileptic regimen. A patient who previously had a seizure and was on an antiepileptic regimen and who wishes to discontinue the seizure medications must not drive for 3 months. If seizures do not recur during this period, driving privileges may be reinstated. Patients who have a brain tumour diagnosis remain at a higher risk for seizures than the general population throughout their lives and should be advised to consider allowing others to drive whenever possible.
If there is a visual field defect or other visual impairment, refer to an ophthalmologist for a formal assessment and recommendations.
Mobility and cognition
If the patient is impaired in mobility or cognition to the extent that this impairment could affect driving ability and the patient wishes to drive anyway, refer to ICBC for a driving assessment.
In general, driving is not recommended if the brain tumour is not clinically and radiographically stable.
Commercial drivers or those holding a class 1-4 license are subject to more stringent restrictions and should seek guidance from their medical professional before driving beyond personal use.
Here is a complete overview of driving fitness for B.C. physicians.

Updated September 2007 

Planning for the Radiation Treatments: Mould Room and Simulator

Your treatment planning begins in our radiation therapy Mould Room. The appointment will last approximately 30 minutes. During this appointment, a thermoplastic mask will be made of your head. This involves taking a flat piece of thermoplastic and warming it up in a warm water bath. It will then be stretched over your face and head while you are lying down. It feels warm and wet initially and then the mask will start to harden in about 10 minutes. This mask will hold your head in position during each treatment. 

An hour after you’ve had your mask made, you will have a CT scan done with the mask on. The images acquired during the scan, in addition to information and x-rays previously done, will be used by your radiation oncologist and the treatment planning therapists to develop your personalized treatment plan.

Treatments and Side Effects
Radiation treatments are given once a day, Monday to Friday, over several weeks. Most treatment appointments are between ten to twenty minutes. Most people do not experience any physical sensation during treatment. Your treatments do not make you radioactive.

The treatment may produce a variety of side effects. These depend on the amount of radiation given and the size and location of the area treated. They are due to swelling of the tissues in the brain. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a common side effect of radiation therapy. It usually starts towards the end of the second week of treatment. It can continue for 4-8 weeks, or longer, after treatment has finished. The degree of fatigue experienced varies with individuals. Patients having chemotherapy and radiation at the same time might experience more fatigue. It is possible to decrease this side effect and its impact on daily living. Drinking 8-10 glasses of non–caffeinated fluids a day is important when you are on treatment. Drinking helps flush out the effects of radiation that lead to cellular fatigue. To maintain energy, balance your activities. Walking for 20-30 minutes a day increases the brain chemicals endorphins that contribute to positive mood and energy. Modify but try to continue your normal physical activities. A short nap during the day may also be useful.

  • Headache: Swelling in the brain can cause headaches which should be reported to a member of your health care team. This is very important if you have headaches in the morning or headaches associated with nausea and vomiting. If a pre-existing headache becomes more severe or more frequent, this should also be reported. If you are taking Dexamethasone (Decadron), continue to do so as prescribed. The dosage may need to be adjusted and rapid control of symptoms can be expected. If you experience any sudden changes, contact your oncologist immediately.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Swelling in the brain can cause nausea and vomiting. Please report these or any worsening neurological symptoms to your health care team. Medications can be prescribed or existing medication dosages adjusted.

  • Changes in Sensation and Movement: Contact your oncologist immediately if you experience any of the following: a change in vision, hearing or speech; a change in the feeling in the face, trunk, arms or legs; an abrupt change of bowel or bladder habit; weakness of the arms or legs; unsteady walk; seizure or "blackouts"; or any other changes. You may require important changes in your medication.

  • Loss of Hair: Hair roots are very sensitive to radiation. Gradual hair loss from the area being treated will be noticed between four to six weeks after the start of radiation. This may be temporary (with re-growth within three to six months) or permanent, depending on the amount of radiation received. Skin care instructions will be given to you. Talk to your Registered Nurse about head coverings and wigs.


Dexamethasone (Decadron) is a widely used, effective medication which controls brain swelling. There are a number of side effects with this drug, which include increased appetite and weight gain; roundness of the face; stomach acid indigestion; easy bruising; hyperactivity and interference of sleep. Decadron can decrease the warning signs of infection, so any raised temperature or infection must be reported to your health care team. Decadron can also raise your blood sugar. If you are a diabetic or you have been told you are at risk for diabetes, your blood sugar must be monitored.

The lowest dose of Decadron for the shortest time will be used to minimize these side effects. You will be monitored and your Decadron dose adjusted during and after radiation treatment, as necessary. Decadron should not be stopped abruptly without consulting your doctor. Your Registered Nurse can give you an information sheet on Decadron.

Patients who have had a seizure are restricted, by law, from driving for 6 months. Patients with problems with their vision, strength, sensation or judgment may also need to stop driving. Your doctor will advise you about driving. Ask your health care team about volunteer drivers. 

After Treatment 
An appointment will usually be arranged for four to six weeks after your last treatment. Medical, social and rehabilitation needs will be assessed then.


Primary brain tumour patients remain at risk for disease relapse after treatment throughout their lives. Surveillance imaging is typically booked at the treating cancer centre or through the neurosurgeon. Patients are also at risk for late effects of treatment. In addition, patients and family caregivers may experience significant psychological distress as a result of the diagnosis. Please see the attached for more information: Follow-up Program for Brain Tumour Patients.

Updated 6 July 2012

Treating nerve damage (neuropathy) - patient information

"Headlines" - a newsletter for people who have been diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

See our section for patients and the public or call the Library at 604.675.8001 
or toll free: 1.888.675.8001, ext. 8001.

Chemotherapy protocols - neuro-oncology
Patient and Family Counselling Services has professionally trained counsellors to provide practical assistance related to travel, finances and accommodation etc. and counselling available to individuals, couples and families. As well, programs such as Art Therapy, Music Therapy, and Relaxation Programs are available. For more information, see the section on Patient and Family Counselling or contact your local cancer centre, Patient and Family Counselling Services (see list of the BC Cancer centres and telephone numbers below).

Rehabilitation Counselling: is a provincial program, actively run from the Vancouver Centre. It includes vocational counselling, resource referral, information and advocacy assistance and counselling related to rehabilitation issues for patients and family members. Contact: Maureen Parkinson in the Vancouver area 604-877-6098 local 2194 or outside Vancouver at 1-800-663-3333 local 2194.

BC Cancer – Vancouver
The Brain Tumour Support Group was set up at the BC Cancer, Vancouver Center in 1985 for patients with primary brain tumours, their families and friends. The meetings are co-facilitated by a counsellor and a nurse. The courage, humour, determination and strength of those who attend make this group a highly successful and supportive place to meet others. The Brain Tumour Support Group offers patients, family members and caregivers the unique opportunity to meet with other individuals who are coping with similar issues. Meetings are held on the 1st Wednesday of the month from 9.30-11:00 a.m. in the John Jambor Room on the first floor of the Vancouver Centre.

Tel: 604.877.6000, local 2194 
Toll free (in BC): 1.800.663.3333 local 2194

BC Cancer – Victoria 
The Brain Tumour Support Group at BC Cancer – Victoria group is open to brain tumour patients, their families and friends. This group provides a supportive environment to meet with others who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for a brain tumour—to share experiences and learn from each other.   Guest speakers are occasionally invited. The group is facilitated by a counsellor from Patient and Family Counselling, and happens on the second Thursday of each month from 11:00 – 12:30 pm in the Quiet Room on the second floor. 

Tel: 250.519.5525  
Toll free: 1.800.670.3322 Local 5525

BC Cancer – Prince George 
Tel: 604.930.2098
Toll free: 1-800-523-2885 (in BC)

BC Cancer – Kelowna  
Tel: 250.712.3963
Toll free number: 1-888-563-7773

BC Cancer – Abbotsford
Tel: 604.851.4710 ext: 645301
Toll free (in BC):  1.877.547.3777

The  Neuro-Oncology Tumour Group is a multidisciplinary team that includes Medical Oncologists, Radiation Oncologists, Surgical Oncologists, Hematologists, Neuro-Oncologists, Pathologists, Radiologists, Pharmacists, nurses and many others from cancer centres and Health Authorities within British Columbia. 


Dr.  Rebecca Harrison, Medical Oncologist VC

Updated: March 8, 2023

Types of cancer

BC Cancer produces general information on the various types of cancer, including what it is, how it’s treated and where to find support and resources.

SOURCE: Neuro-Oncology ( )
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